Chatham now a part of the ‘Visit N.C. Farms’ mobile app

Posted 12/16/20

With people relying more and more on their smartphones for information, mobile “apps” — application programs — have grown in popularity and usefulness. The Visit N.C. Farms app is a …

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Chatham now a part of the ‘Visit N.C. Farms’ mobile app

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With people relying more and more on their smartphones for information, mobile “apps” — application programs — have grown in popularity and usefulness. The Visit N.C. Farms app is a community-based tool to give users information about what their local farms provide and much, much more.

This week, we speak with Tiffany Hancock, the marketing and media support specialist for the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Chatham County, about Chatham’s new inclusion in the app, which is available for free for users on the iOS or Android platforms. Hancock has been with Chatham County Center since 2015 and is the county’s administrator for the app. A Chatham native, she received the Pride of the Wolfpack Award in 2017 for outstanding customer service.

The Chatham County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension has — after a lot of work — helped Chatham County become a part of the “Visit N.C. Farms” application. Let’s start with the app itself — what is it, and why is it so important?

N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Chatham County Center is partnering with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) on the launch of the Visit N.C. Farms App.

The app is designed to connect the dots within each community across North Carolina. With maps, lists and search features, users can find local farms, farmers markets and restaurants with food and activities of interest to them, all in their own backyard.

This app showcases farms and agribusinesses, which allow them to reach a broader audience of potential customers and repeat patrons. With both a map and a list view, users will be able to easily find the farm or agribusiness closest to them or filter based on offerings.

The Visit N.C. Farm app was developed before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a COVID-19 economy, consumers are turning to local farms for food. Local farms are pivoting to meet the surge in demand. The Visit N.C. Farms App is ensuring they get connected.

And why was it important for Chatham County to be a part of the app?

There are significant social, economic and environmental benefits to promoting Agritourism in Chatham County. Agricultural and agribusiness (food, fiber, and forestry) industries are prominent economic drivers and account for 33% of Chatham County’s total income. Fifty-nine percent of travelers say they will avoid crowds on their next leisure trip, and almost 30% of North Carolinians are more interested in traveling closer to home. This makes nearby rural and outdoor attractions, the most likely destinations in the near future. The app is a marketing tool to drive N.C. residents to the agricultural economy in their own backyards!

Neither Wake nor Mecklenburg — not known for farms, of course — are included in the app, and, in fact, a relatively few but growing number of counties in the state are. What had to happen for Chatham to be included? (And how was it funded?)

The pilot project was launched by Orange County in the fall of 2017. After their investment and initial success, the app expanded to other counties. Currently there are 34 counties, including Chatham County, that are active on the app. There are 20 new counties that have signed on to join the app in the near future.

Chatham County Government, in conjunction with the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), funded the initial costs to implement the app here in Chatham, and those funds were coupled with a cost-share program with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture between Chatham, Randolph, Guilford, and Alamance counties. Chatham County Farm Bureau is supporting the app moving into 2021. Over the fall, Chatham County worked with a few farms/agribusinesses to conduct a three-month-long pilot program for formal launch next year. Beginning in early 2021, interested farms and agribusinesses will be encouraged to join the Visit N.C. Farms app.

There will be a small yearly charge for the farms and agribusiness to join the app which cover monthly tech support, app administration, and marketing costs. Participating farms/agribusinesses can benefit from the power of mobile technology — helping clients find farms/agribusinesses in the palm of their hand!

Over the last few months, the app has been a great tool for people searching for local food in their communities. Many farms have added farm stands and other ways to sell their products. The app has connected those farms with clients, both at home and in urban areas.

Most of us have smartphones these days, or tablets, and are used to using apps — short for “applications” — as tools. What are the best ways people in Chatham can use the Visit N.C. Farms app? What can they find?

The best way to use the Visit N.C. Farm app is to download the app to a smart phone. The main app page will appear highlighting eight categories to select from. Those categories are Farms and Fisheries, Pick Your Own, Farmers Markets, Local Food and Drink, Shop Local, Farm Stays and Lodging, Tours and Trails, and Special Events.

When you initially open the app you will be asked to enable location services. Allowing the app to enable location services will assist you in locating local farms and businesses much faster. You will also have the option to receive push notifications. After the initial setup, you can then select from the eight categories. After making your selection, a North Carolina map will appear where you can make your selection from your chosen category. Once your selection appears, you can find the directions to the business, call the business directly from the app or visit their website.

How can smartphone users get the app?

Visit your preferred app store — iOS or Android — to download The Visit N.C. Farms app.

What else do we need to know about it?

N.C. Cooperative Extension is pleased to be leading and coordinating this agricultural economic development project here in Chatham County. For more information about the Visit N.C. Farm app or to find out how you can connect your farm or agribusiness to the community, contact Tiffany Hancock, N.C. Cooperative Extension marketing and media support specialist and Visit N.C. Farms app administrator at twhancoc@ncsu.edu.

About N.C. Cooperative Extension: N.C. Cooperative Extension is a strategic partnership of N.C. State Extension, The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), and local governments statewide. Extension professionals in all 100 counties and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians connect millions of North Carolinians with research-based information and technology from N.C. State and N.C. A&T. Educational programs specialize in agriculture, food and nutrition, 4-H youth development, community development and the environment. For more information on the N.C. Cooperative Extension - Chatham County Center and educational programming for the local community, please visit https://chatham.ces.ncsu.edu/.

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